Sicky is an interactive children's toy demonstrating realistic cause and effect. Developed as an exploration of experiential learning through play, Sicky is meant to help children understand why they get sick.

Sicky was designed for younger children, necessitating an interaction model that would be easy to understand and master. After discussion about potential levels of complexity, Juan and I proposed a three-state interaction model that progresses to each state incrementally, increasing or decreasing feedback as necessary. Feedback from the toy would be easily discernable and understandable.

I was responsible for building Sicky's technological core. We turned to RFID technology for the core of our interaction because it allowed us to create our desired interactions with little cognitive effort needed from the child. RFID tags embedded in the companion toys are read by the sensor beneath Sicky's mouth, with the data processed by an Arduino to increase or decrease Sicky's illness state. Sicky in turn provides auditory feedback based on this state. The companion toys, a germ and chicken soup, respectively represented the means of getting sick and getting better.

The doll's body and companion toys were made from a durable canvas fabric that Juan had selected, which allowed for the dolls to be squeezed like plush toys, as well as made them considerably more durable. To create a more realistic scenario, a bed Sicky doll would rest in was introduced. The bed also created space to hide most of the technology that makes the toy work.

Despite designing a simple interaction model, getting the prototype to work was another matter entirely. This project was my first project to implement an Arduino, and I ran into a number of hurdles putting together the hardware (soldering is not my strongpoint). I also learned that sound processing should be left to other controllers to process, as Arduino did not have the power to properly process the sound files used for system feedback.

Producing a physical object in itself forced us to consider experience outside of a screen, where form and materials as just as important as the interaction model itself. For an audience that is wildly imaginative, we had to take into account that Sicky likely would also be used outside of the bounds of the system we had designed. We had an expectation that children could create completely different scenarios for Sicky, which as user experience designers, was wildly exciting.

  • Dan Nanasi, Juan Henao
Strategy, curiosity, empathy, beard.